Saints' Willie Snead hard to miss after breakout season, new hairdo

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Willie Snead isn’t flying under the radar anymore.

Not after the New Orleans Saints receiver had a breakout season in 2015 with nearly 1,000 yards.

And certainly not with that hairdo.

Snead is quite literally shining on the practice field every day, with flowing blonde locks spilling out of his helmet.

“I’m just having some fun. It’s just a new look, I guess,” he said admitting that it wasn’t exactly the look he was going for.

“I wanted the tips to be blonde, and the whole head ended up being blonde,” said Snead, who thinks the stylist misinterpreted his wishes.

But Snead said he’s going to go with it anyway. For one thing, his mom likes it -- which is the most important thing. For another, Snead has the confidence that he will back it up.

Snead knew he would hear about the hair from his teammates (he has) and have to field some questions from the media (he did). And he will probably hear from opposing DBs, too.

“Oh yeah, absolutely. I expect them to say something,” Snead said. “And I expect them to say something back.”

For the record, Snead said he has changed up his ‘do every summer since he was a freshman in college. So he didn’t exactly go all Hollywood just because he caught 69 passes for 984 yards and three touchdowns with the Saints last year.

But confidence has never been a concern with the 5-foot-11, 195-pounder, who went undrafted out of Ball State in 2014 and got cut by both the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers before landing on New Orleans’ practice squad.

It was this time last summer when Snead dominated the practice fields every day in training camp to not only earn a roster job, but a starting job.

I wrote in-depth last year about how the Saints kept Snead from slipping through the cracks.

“I’m not surprised at all. I just needed an opportunity,” Snead said Saturday. “You know, everybody looked at my speed coming out, and they thought that was going to be a difference. But at the end of the day it’s all about technique and just having that competitive nature that I have in me just to get out and get after guys.

“So as long as I got the opportunity, I was gonna make the most of it.”

And Snead insisted that he won’t waste the opportunity again this year. He said he worked hard on trying to increase his speed over the summer with his dad, a longtime high school football coach. He also has been focusing on his footwork and using his hands to elude press coverage -- something he called a “weakness in my game” last season.

Snead’s strengths, meanwhile, include his smarts and his awareness, which is why coach Sean Payton continued to compare him to former Saints standout Lance Moore on Saturday.

“He’s playing in a similar manner -- he’s playing in the slot, he’s playing in the Z position,” Payton said. “Man, for a long time here, Lance (Moore) made a lot of plays. And I think that as defenses would adjust or something would happen, there’s just some players that have that unique ability to not ever surprise (the quarterback) with what they do on the field.”

Indeed, Snead has drawn praise from the Saints’ quarterbacks this week, including Garrett Grayson, who said, “He knows how to get open.”

“After the year he had last year, his confidence is through the roof,” Grayson said. “So I think he’s just building on that in this camp and showing everybody that doubted him in the past and didn’t give him a chance that they made a huge mistake.”

Snead might not make a huge statistical jump in his second official NFL season -- especially if rookie receiver Michael Thomas continues to thrive like he has for the first few days of training camp.

But Snead will remain a big part of the rotation, along with No. 1 receiver Brandin Cooks. And he should only improve with a full year of experience under his belt.

Veteran running back Tim Hightower smirked at the media when he found himself fielding questions about Snead’s hair.

But Hightower quickly injected, “As long as he’s at his best, we may all dye our hair blonde.”